they have only been in production for just a decade, Cryptic Studios
has successfully launched three MMOGs so far in their lifetime, and
already has a fourth announced. As a fan and player of their most
recently launched title - Star
- I frequently find myself in a position of
examining the game and comparing with Cryptic's other work to date.
Sadly, when I do so, I see STO coming up short in a few areas of design
philosophy. Some are core concepts that would alter the entire flow of
STO while others are smaller factors that Cryptic already seems to be
on the road to correcting. All, however, are lessons that could be
learned from their prior MMOG, Champions
. And while the worlds of warp speed and tight
spandex don't seem to dwell in the same reality, the core truth is that
they are both MMOGs, both use the same engine and both were created by
the same development company. They have more in common than not, and
more to learn from one another than may be apparent at first glance.
Throughout the world of CO, you’ll frequently be given very generic
instructions on where to find your next batch of missions, and along
the way you’re bound to stumble across some pedestrian being assaulted
by hooligans, or find a contact tucked in behind a building that you
might not have noticed at first glance. To date, STO does not have more
than a half-dozen of similarly discoverable objectives, out of a
repertoire of missions that numbers in the several-hundreds.
It may seem like a small factor, and one that is frequently taken for
granted in traditional MMOGs, but it is a core feature that plays to
the “explorer” archetype of gamers. And given that exploration is
frequently touted as one of STO's weaker features at this point in
time, it stands to reason that giving players an option to discover
content by accident could go a long way toward improving the feeling
that we are going “where no man has gone before.”
In addition to the exploration side of things, it's possible that
having fewer missions handed out by a number of static commanding
officers, and instead offered by passing freighters and subspace
distress beacons, may offer the world of STO a stronger sense of life
and immersion. In fact, I can recall a number of episodes from every
series where one captain or another would divert themselves from their
primary objective in order to investigate something nearby – a spatial
anomaly or passing mystery ship. Each are canon-driven references to
content that was not assigned, but was instead found.
mission structure is a much more traditional MMOG model than STO. In
CO, you visit a quest hub, load up on missions, then head out into the
adventuring areas nearby and start collecting progress in the form of
items and kills on multiple objectives at the same time. So while
you’re snuffing the neighborhood baddies, you’re also picking up the
stolen data they swiped from Dr. Goodguy's lab, as well as ransacking
their camps for other prizes - working on at least three different
STO on the other hand, has you focus on a single objective at a time.
And while that focus might feel good for some folks (I know there’s a
little OCD in every gamer) ultimately it ends up giving you the
distinct impression that you are riding on rails. At no point do you
feel in control of your destiny, despite being a captain of a starship.
Instead, you're told where to go, what to do, and even when the mission
goals are inane you are very rarely offered the responsibility of going
after more than one at any point in time.
As well as giving us a larger sense that we, as the important
high-ranking captains that we are, are actually accomplishing a number
of worthy goals, this structure of working toward multiple objectives
simultaneously could cut down on another of the primary gripes against
STO – excessive zoning. Placing multiple missions in a single area
could also allow players to also become attached to the places they
visit, instead of each debris-strewn map being no more than another
nameless planetary system where we destroyed some
Harvestables That Give Buffs
Very small thing, but picking up crafting supplies in CO gives you a
buff that lasts like 5-10 minutes. Even better – this buff is not just
for you, it also bestows that buff on anyone in the area. The buffs are
also different for each different ‘class’ of harvestable (Science,
Arms, Magic). So it’s possible, if you’re in a group with at least two
buddies of different crafting specialities, to load up on short-term
buffs to damage, resistance and regen, while you smash baddies together.
The benefits of incorporating this system into STO are many-fold. First
off, it encourages you to pick up anomalies even if you have no
intention of using them to craft. Next, it gives each individual
crafter the potential of having their crafting skills affect their
combat capabilities in a tangible way, even if the boost is a small
one. And finally – and I think most importantly – it encourages the
active participation of multiple players to work towards locating these
anomalies that are, by and large, considered a nuisance by many STO
players. By attaching a simple buff to the act of harvesting them, you
can quickly change them from a speedbump and distraction, into a
desirable and sought-after item.
And while we’re on the subject of crafting...